Ashera: Chapter 19
For a moment, Ashera stood there, frozen, her eyes locked with the giant’s. She examined the monster, trembling with fear. The giant was at least 20 feet tall-she guessed it was much taller than that, though-with skin, hair, and even eyes that were the pale color of snow. She also noticed the huge club in his hand, which was now swinging towards her.
Ashera felt a nip at her ankles and she felt herself instinctively moving away from the giant. Shadow barked at her as they ran, urging her forward.
“Run Ashera!” Ryan’s voice came from a while away, into the falling snow.
“I’m trying!” Ashera called back. But, she was getting nowhere. The snow and ice covering the rough terrain made her slip and slide along, unable to speed up. The snow was falling heavily from the sky, obscuring her vision., In a few seconds, Ashera’s world was nothing but white and cole and the wind howling in her ears.
“Guys?” she called, her voice already too quiet for her liking. The necklace around her neck kept her core warm, but the cold still bit at any shred of exposed skin. “Guys?”
A black head, coated in white, appeared, jumping up from a pile of snow. Ashera grinned. “Shadow!”
The wolf, breathing heavily, planted a kiss on Ashera’s hand, warming it briefly. Ashera gripped the scruff of his neck with her hand and clung to him. He tugged her forward, leading her through the snow as well as he could. Ashera trusted him fully; she was completely blind and she knew that Shadow could use his hearing and smell to guide them through this storm better than she ever could.
Thud! Thud! Ashera heard footsteps approaching. They shook the ground, sending piles of snow plummeting off of trees. She stumbled forward, swearing under her breath. “Ryan?! Fox?!” Even as she called for them, she knew that they wouldn’t hear her. The storm was too big now; she could hardly hear herself.
Ashera looked around. She could see the silhouette of a giant approaching in the distance. “Well, Shadow, I guess it’s just you and me now.” She looked down to where Shadow stood by her side, but he wasn’t there. He must’ve disappeared into the snow.
The storm blocked her vision, the wind howled in her ears, and the snow had chilled her hands to numbness. She was completely and utterly blind, all of her senses were being stopped by the storm. She felt her hopes sink. How could you win a battle against something you couldn’t see?
The thud of the club hitting the ground beside her startled her, waking her from her stupor. It shook the ground beneath her feet, and she had to catch herself from falling forward. Upon closer examination, she noticed that the club wasn’t a club at all, but rather a giant tree, being used as a weapon. A stray branch whacked her across the face and her mouth filled with the metallic taste of blood.
The tree had gone back up into the air, and Ashera knew that there was no way that she’d be able to find cover in time. She screamed as the tree came down at her hand, but an arc of light magic shot out from her chest, hitting the giant in the face. He staggered backwards, blinded, giving Ashera time to run away.
“Help! Anybody, please come help!” She could hear the giant climbing to his feet and she started running faster. The thudding of heavy footfalls across the ground sent her flying through the air, into the snow. She landed on her back, watching in horror as the giant approached. She accepted her fate, whispering a silent apology to Saria and Bear for being unable to save them. Something clicked into place in her mind. Gritting her teeth, she prepared herself for the strike.
It never came.
Instead, after a couple seconds of nothing, Ashera opened her eyes to see Shadow, hanging off of the giant’s hide. The giant was whirling around, trying to get the annoying wolf to let go of him. Just as he moved to swat Shadow off his back, an arrow flew threw the air and impaled his hand, making him drop the tree on the ground. Ashera started grinning.
“You okay?” Ryan asked, appearing in front of her, sword in hand.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He offered her a hand and she took it, climbing to her feet.
“You had us all worried for a second there. We saw you fall.”
“How’d you find me through the storm?”
Ryan grimaced. “Shadow, uh, led us here.” He saw her eyebrows shoot up. “I owe you an apology, but I’m afraid it’ll have to wait. We’ve got a giant to kill.” He unsheathed his sword, holding it up. “Shall we?”
Ashera grinned, unsheathing her sword as well. Light cascaded off of the blade, reflecting across the snow. “We shall.”
Together, Ryan and Ashera charged towards the giant, who had now shaken Shadow off of him and was approaching him menacingly.
“Hey ugly!” Ashera called, waving her hands in the air. “Over here!” The giant turned, right as Ashera blasted him in the eye with a bolt of light magic. His hand flew up to his eye and he screamed in pain.
In rage, the giant roared and sent a blast of ice firing at Ashera. She hit the ground with a dull thud, shivering uncontrollably. The amulet around her neck grew hot and warmed her body, almost as if her blood had been heated. She realized that if it weren’t for the amulet, she may not have survived the blow.
“Okay, now we have a problem,” she growled, charging at the giant once again.
She ran forward, swinging her sword up to slash the giant across the shin. He brought his had down to crush her, but she blocked it with a beam of light. This repeated for a few seconds, Ashera deftly weaving away from the giant’s strikes. After a couple of blows, the giant’s hand didn’t come. She looked up and saw the giant swaying unsteadily. “What’s wrong ugly? Can’t put up a fight?”
“Ashera! Run!” Ryan yelled.
Ashera looked back up in alarm, realizing that the giant was falling-an arrow embedded in his eye. She turned and ran as fast as she could, leaping out of the way as the giant’s burly arm crashed to the ground beside her.
She stumbled forward, falling into Ryan’s outstretched arms. Gasping for breath, she dropped her sword to the ground. “You okay?” he asked.
Ashera nodded. “I’m fine.” She turned to Fox, who was watching the two of them curiously. “Nice shot.”
Ashera heard a whine behind her and turned to see Shadow, limping towards the group. He held his back leg at an odd angle, and didn’t put any weight onto it. She could tell that it was badly strained, if not broken.
“Come here boy,” Ashera said, lifting herself out of Ryan’s arm and kneeling next to Shadow. “This is going to hurt a bit.” She wrapped her hands around Shadow’s back leg, channeling a small amount of light magic through her hands.
Shadow yelped, furiously trying to get his leg out of Ashera’s hands. She could feel his flesh being burned underneath her palms, but she held steady until his leg righted itself. Shadow pulled himself away, now able to put weight on his back leg, and licked her hand in gratitude.
“There you go boy,” Ashera said, ruffling the fur on the top of his head. She turned to Fox and Ryan, giving them an expectant look.
Fox shifted on her feet uncomfortably. Ryan cleared his throat. “Like I said, we both owe you an apology.”
“Let me go first,” Fox turned to Ashera, looking her in the eye. “I’m sorry. I should’ve trusted your judgement. I thought that you were keeping the Cal-Shadow around because you missed Bear. I thought that you were putting all of our lives in danger.” Fox dropped her gaze to where Shadow waited by Ashera’s feet. “I guess I was wrong.”
Ryan cut in, “We thought that we had lost you when you disappeared into that storm. We-we thought that you were gone.” Tears filled his eyes, but he made no effort to brush them away. “But then Shadow emerged from the storm and led us to you. He was like an angel. He saved you, and for that I owe everything to him, for my life is yours. We should’ve trusted you all along.”
“Thank you guys. I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you.” Ashera turned to Fox. “Ryan, can you go set up a fire?”
“Can you go set up a fire?” Ashera never took her eyes off of Fox. “I owe Fox a...different apology.”
Ryan hesitated for a second, looking back and forth between Fox and Ashera. “Okay then,” he eventually said. “I guess I’ll go.”
Ashera waited until he was out of earshot, then crossed over to a large boulder protruding from the snow-covered ground. She looked over at Fox. “Come sit.” Fox did, and Ashera turned to her.
“I almost died today,” she said. “And it made me realize some things, mainly that you were right.”
“What do you mean?”
“I still love Strength of Bear,” Ashera said. His full name on her tongue brought a familiar sense of warmth into her chest. “I think a part of me always will.” Fox looked into her eyes, concerned yet unsurprised. “What do you make of this?”
Fox thought it over for a second. “What does this mean for our quest?”
“It will be no different. I already am trying to find a way to rid Bear of this dark magic; I have since the beginning. If we can get to the Orb of Reality before he does, we can use it to save him.”
“Ashera, the Orb is a very dark piece of magic. Even if it is used for a good purpose, it is extremely dangerous to use at all.”
Ashera frowned. “But if it could-” She saw Fox’s displeased look and cut herself off. “How about this: we find the Orb first and then once we have it we can talk about what to do with it.”
Fox sighed. “And if we don’t get to the Orb of Reality in time? If the Alpha gets to it first?”
For a moment, Ashera allowed herself to consider this possibility. That she failed. That she was unable to save Bear. That he continued to be trapped by this dark curse and would go on to destroy Golivun, no one able to stop him. Ashera’s eyes darkened, and her voice came out low and steady, “I’ll kill him.”
Fox nodded, satisfied by this answer. “And how do you feel of Ryan?”
Here, Ashera grimaced. “I have feelings for him, too.”
Fox frowned. “Then you must speak with him.:
“I know,” Ashera said. “I’ll talk to him soon, just not tonight. I’m not even sure of what I know right now, and I don’t want to say anything that I don’t mean.”
“Okay,” Fox said. Then, without warning, she placed a hand on Ashera’s shoulder. “Try to relax. Everything will turn out fine, I promise.”
“Thank you, Fox. Thank you.”
Fox grinned. “Don’t mention it.” She stood up, clasping Ashera’s forearm. “Let’s head back to that campfire, I’m freezing.”
Ashera followed Fox back to camp, and finally, for the first time since she had discovered Bear’s fake death, she felt at peace. She was finally honest with herself, and no matter what had happened during the next few days, Golivun would be leaving in a better state than it was in currently. She would be okay.
“Come on, Ashera! Ryan went hunting.”
Ashera walked over to the fire, and gratefully took the skewer from Ryan. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and Fox was laughing and Shadow was licking her hand. Yes, whatever happened, she would be okay.
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