Ashera: Chapter 9
A story by Writerial.
NOTE: Whew, it’s been a while! I’ve been so incredibly busy for the last few months that I haven’t had any time to post Ashera-but it’s back! Thank you all for sticking with me through all of this and I hope you enjoy chapter 9!
It took them a few days of travelling to near the towering Sky Mountains. Ryan had warned them of the dangerous creatures that resided in the rocky caverns, so they had stayed far away from where the mountains actually started.
“What are we even looking for?” Fox asked as they walked. “We’ve been walking for days and no one has even bothered to tell me why.”
“I told you, I don’t really know,” Ashera said. “I just feel like we need to go this way, you know?”
“Well then suck it up.” Ryan appeared silently a few yards in front of them, holding a finger to his lips. “What is it?”
“There’s some remnants of a battle up ahead,” Ryan hissed. “We should stay here until we’re sure everyone’s gone.”
“How fresh are they?” Fox asked.
“I didn’t get a close look,” Ryan said. He looked up at the sky. “It’s pretty close to evening anyways. Wouldn’t be a bad time to make camp.”
So, Ryan and Ashera got to work on setting up the camp as quietly as they could while Fox stood guard. Ryan eyed the sword on her belt as Ashera uncomfortably tried to set a branch in place. “Have you practiced with that yet?”
She shook her head. “But I’ve practiced with my old sword, so it can’t be too different, right?”
Ryan chuckled softly. “You elves are so naive about swordsmanship.”
Ashera rolled her eyes. “I don’t even know what it’ll do. Wizzbee said that I’d be better suited for it, but I don’t even know what I’m suited for.”
“Well, why don’t we see?” Ryan asked. Ashera cocked an eyebrow. “Go ahead an unsheath it.”
With a shrug, Ashera grabbed the handle of the sword and took it out of its sheath. It was a simple steel blade, but it was perfectly balanced for her. She tossed it in her hand experimentally. “Doesn’t seem too special,” she said.
She held it up for closer inspection and almost dropped it. A thin line of yellow light ran down the center of the sword, causing the whole sword to give off a soft glow. “It’s glowing!”
“Shhhh!” Ryan hissed, but even he stepped closer to inspect the blade. “Woah, why’s it doing that?”
“I don’t know,” Ashera said, sheathing the sword. “It’s probably best to put it away for now, though. It’s getting dark.”
Ryan nodded. “C’mon, help me finish setting up camp.”
By the time the sun was setting over the horizon, the camp was completely finished. Ashera and Ryan had decided that it was too risky to make a fire, so they sat on a log, huddled underneath a blanket.
“I’m glad you’re warm,” Ashera shivered into Ryan’s shoulder.
“I don’t feel like it,” he replied, but he wrapped his arm tighter around Ashera.
“I’m really glad you came with us on this adventure, not just to be used as a blanket,” Ashera said earnestly. “I know it probably would’ve been easier-and safer-to stay in Harle and protect your town and it means a lot to me that you came with us. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you.”
Ryan smiled. “It’s been my pleasure. I’m so glad I got to meet you, Ashera. You’re honestly one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met and-”
“When you two are done flirting, I’ll tell you what I saw,” Fox said, appearing at the edge of the clearing.
“We weren’t flirting,” Ashera rolled her eyes.
“What’d you see?” Ryan asked, sounding annoyed.
“Nothing. I couldn’t get too close, but I didn’t hear any sounds of battle or anything,” Fox said. “I vote that if nothing’s changed by tomorrow morning we check it out.”
“Agreed,” Ashera said. She yawned, shivering. “Do you think we could get a fire going?”
“I don’t see why not,” Fox said. “Get some sleep tonight, I have a good feeling about tomorrow.”
At dawn, the four of them made their way to where the battle scene was. In actuality, it didn’t look too much like a battle-more like a murder. Blood spattered the dead grass, and remnants of a cloak, weapons, and some white rock lay sprawled across the ground.
“What happened here?” Ryan asked.
“I don’t know. It looks familiar,” Ashera said.
“I feel like I’ve seen something like this before.”
“Me too,” Fox said. Her eyes widened in realization. “Ryan, what type of rock is that?”
Ryan stepped forward, picking up a chunk of the white rock to inspect it. “It looks like marble. Why?”
Fox’s shoulders slumped. “A drupriki died here.”
“Oh no,” Ashera said.
“What? How can you tell?”
“You see, drupriki start out as a block of marble. They’re carved by a tribal carver with a special magical chisel that enchants them so when they hear their master’s whistle, they’ll come alive. But when they die they crumble back to marble,” Fox explained. Her voice cracked as she said, “I saw it with Niksti.”
Ashera crossed over to her friend and wrapped an arm around her. “That doesn’t explain the blood,” Ryan said.
“It was probably an elf,” Ashera said. “Here, bring me that cloak. Each of us have a signature pattern on it. I’ll be able to tell who it belonged to.”
Ryan lifted the green cloak up and handed it over to Ashera. She inspected it. Roughly sewn brown and gray patches would make up a distinct pattern for each elf. She had just begun inspecting it when she saw the fur-brown bear fur on the right shoulder. She almost dropped the cloak.
“What?” Fox asked. “What is it?”
Ashera felt like she was going to be sick. Dread coursed through her. “Bear,” she managed to say.
Fox examined the cloak and her eyes landed on the fur, then on the identical patch on Ashera’s left shoulder. “Oh, Ashera,” she said, hugging her friend.
Ryan’s eyes narrowed. “Is that that stupid guy you go on about?” he asked.
Ashera wanted to glare at him, but she didn’t have the energy. She already was slumping to the ground.
“Maybe he’s still alive,” Fox said quickly.
Ashera shook her head numbly. “Too much blood. Plus Bear would never let Kaleedki die like that.” She felt her entire body crumbling down. Her brain didn’t seem to work. “He’s gone, Fox. He’s gone.”
After Ashera had seen it, Fox and Ryan decided it was best to leave her alone. That was a mistake. She saw Bear whenever she closed her eyes. Him smiling or teasing her or them riding on Kaleedki’s back. It kept occuring to her that that was never going to happen again. She’d never see his beaming smile or hear his laugh or feel his lips pressed against hers. It didn’t feel real, but at the same time it felt all too real.
Fox eventually came in and sat down beside her. “Are you okay?”
Ashera shook her head.
“Of course you’re not okay-that’s a stupid question. How bad are you doing?”
“Not good,” Ashera said. “He can’t be dead. He just can’t be. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Not really.”
“Oh Ashera,” Fox said, hugging her.
“He kissed me before he left, you know.”
“I figured,” Fox said. “I always knew there was something between you guys.”
“Were you this bad when Wi-Daylor died?”
Fox smiled grimly, “I was worse. I’m not strong like you.”
Ashera sighed. “I don’t feel strong.”
Soon they stopped talking, instead just sitting in silence. Ashera started shaking when she thought of Bear, and Fox would grip her in a hug when it happened. They sat, and didn’t talk, because they didn’t know what to say.
Ashera didn’t know how long it was before Ryan appeared at the opening of the shelter. “Can I talk to her?” he asked Fox.
Fox nodded and traded places with him. He wrapped his arm around Ashera, but unlike the night before when it had felt warm and safe, now it only felt uncomfortable. “How you holding up?” Ashera didn’t answer. He sighed, but continued, “Listen, I know I’m not always the best person to talk to, but I’m always going to be here for you and if you ever need me, just ask, okay?”
“Okay. Thank yo-”
Ashera was cut off by Ryan’s lips, pressing against hers. She sat there, shocked, while he kissed her tenderly. He pulled away and gave her a soft smile, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “Tell me if you need anything,” he said, and then he left the tent.
Ashera sat there, trying to process what just happened. Ryan kissed her. But Bear kissed her. But Ryan wasn’t Bear. But Bear was dead. None of it made sense in her muddled brain. She tried to ignore it, instead trying to sleep.
She could see Bear-almost feel him, which was strange now that he was gone. She could see him lying on the grass, bleeding to death, calling out for help-any help. And no one came. She could feel Bear’s lips against hers, and then they were Ryan’s and she was confused again. Ryan and her were friends-nothing more, right? Then why was she comparing him to Bear? She tried to push these thought out of her head because they just made her more confused.
Eventually, she fell asleep, but her worries and fears didn’t leave her, instead plaguing her dreams for the rest of the deep, dark night.
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