The dark seeped through the leaves of the trees, climbing its way through them, bleeding blackness over the shrubbs and grass and dribbling its great emptiness and that provoked fear into almost every heart over everything.The clearing hummed with the sounds of singing crickets and hooting owls and the wet air clung like dough to Ellen's skin, the moisture seeming to coat Ellen in a heavy blanket of humidity. Her head throbbed with the heat, making her eyes heavy and her thoughts sloppy. Her mind wondered to her home; so far away now, the place so deeply buried within Ellen's heart, so suddenly pushed aside and forgotten, it could have been on another planet. Wispy clouds parted overhead, drifting through the heavy air, expososing the Moon. All at once, light was projected over everything, pearly pulses of comfort shone on Ellen's moist face, reflecting in her eyes, making them shine and flash like the dagger on her belt. She glanced up at the source gratefully, a half smile dancing on her lips. The silvery orb floated magically in the satin blackness, staring down at her, watching. In that moment, Ellen wondered if it was sad; after all, the world is filled with such horrible things, and the moon has to watch it every day. Maybe, if it was a person, it would crawl into itself, retreat to it's scarred mind, poisoned by scenes of violence and torture; or maybe it would rejoice and sing and dance, eternally determined to do good like all the other humans who aren't sick and twisted like the majority. And the stars. The stars who accompanied the moon in the huge folds of velvet that strectched across the sky. Ellen looked at them in wonder, facinated by the way they blinked and rolled in the black, so at home in such a menacing time.
Ellen stole a glance at the beautiful sleeping baby wrapped in a green velvet shawl, lying on the small bed of leaves under a giant sycamore tree. This baby was her mission.
She intended not to fail.
Did she dare sleep? The thought of them finding her here terrified her. Everytime she closed her eyes, she saw the long curved talons of the beast,; could smell the fowl stench of decay and rotting flesh that seemed to engulf their entire being. She could feel the coolness of the sharp blade they carry slinding across her neck, their breath crawling down her back and into her ears, skirmimg its way into the very depths of her existance. Their pale hands wrapping themselves around the baby's neck, each one desperate to sink their teeth into her soft pale skin.
"No." Ellen said aloud, her eyes flashing open. "Not tonight."
A branch suddenly cracked crisply clean somewhere not to far away. In fact it rustled in such a way that only a heavy Calorion boot could have snapped it. Realization as heavy as the sky itself fell on Ellen, as she caught on to her terrible mistake; they needed to check to see if it was really her, they planted that image in her head to make her speak. They needed a sample of her knowing it was them and what they were.
Ellen had effectively just given them permission to murder her, but all that she could think to say in that moment just toppled out.
Ellen tried to swallow away the large, uncomfortable lump of fear that welled in her throat. Her breathing came out in quick, loud gasps and her hands began to shake. Her eyes darted everywhere. Huge looming figures in the trees approached her, their eyes flashing like their swords. She sat very still; sudden movements catipulted them in to their slicing, chopping, snarling, teeth baring mode, and Ellen really, really didn't want that.
The baby. She had to get to the baby.
Very slowly, she got to her knees, the twigs and rustling leaves seemed amplified in the vast darkness. Looking all around, she stood.
The smell hit her almost immediately. It was enough to make her gag and vomit. Her eyes stung and began to water, the scent attacking her every sence.
Elen had no doubt in her mind that it was them.
The traitors, coming for her.
All thought of moving slowly, desterted her. She had to escape swiftly without hesitation.
Moving insanely quickly, she darted forward and lept for the child, shielding her from numerous weapons that were flung in their general direction. Ellen was a protector, naturally gifted with the power to sheild people she loved with inpenertrable defence. The beasts gave a shriek like a cat may in a blood thirsty fight, only it was a thousand times louder. It sent Ellen's skin into a goosebump frenzy, causing her to shudder and grimance; delaying her esacpe for a fraction of a second. Upon shrieking, a Calorion emerged from the undergrowth, sword a loft, face a murderous blanket of rage and madness. His skin yellowed and sickly, his eyes set back in his skull making him look like he was rotting and decomposing. His skull had a huge chunk missing, blood and slimy, sickly brains ozed out and dribbled down his hollow face. His eyes were empty and grey, all emotion excapt hate drained from them. The side of his head that wasn't torn and bloody, housed an enormous scar and small wisps of flaming orange hair that reminded Ellen of spider's webs.
Without another moments thought, Ellen plunged easily into the darkness, letting the wind swirl around her body, taking her away. She didn't trust her self to stop and turn to see where the Calorions were; fear may stop her from flying properly. The wind flew through her long hair as she dived in and out of the stars, their bright light showng her the way. The baby had begun to whimper and her lovely face was crumpled in fear and discomfort.
"Shhh." Murmmrered Ellen, pulling the child closer to her body, "We'll be alright soon."
Ellen tried not to think about the huge beasts that the Calorions used as transport folowing her through the night. She tried to block the sound of beating wings that her frightened mind conjured for her. That her frightened mind had made extremely real.
Ellen turned in the air. What greeted her was a ferocious horned dragon creature with eyes like a hawk. Horrible pale skin was stretched across it's skinny body and long, shredded feathers framed it's face like a neck brace. A gasp escaped from her lips, the sound loud enough for it to be carried through the air to the Calorion on the beast.
Its face creased around the mouth, the horrible skin gathering together like butter when you squish it between your fingers. It took a moment before Ellen realized it was smiling. The tiny youngster in her arms started to howl; her green eyes wide with terror. Ellen thought that the wailing sound of an upset and frightened child was the worse noise of them all.
Ellen turned away from the beast, accelerating forwards, dodging trees and startled birds as if she was dancing upon velvet. The thing behind her snarled menicingly and flapped its moth eaten wings harder. Ellen breathed heavily and beeds of yet more liquid ran down her face and into her eyes, stinging them. Her hair plastered to her head and her skin flamed red, the heat radiating off her so that she was hot to touch. Ellen could smell the saltiness of the sweat, could taste it as it lingered like snowflakes on her lips, erging her to lick them. People on the ground wouldn't have been able to see her or the beast, they were moving too quickly, but, if they could, they would see a perfectly graceful shadow cast on to empty clearings by the bight moon.
The Calorion yelled with frrstation, it whipped the dragon violently and they were suddenly thrown forward so that they were level with Ellen. An overwhelming sence of panic rose rapidly in Ellen's throat. She risked a glance sideways. The dragon was so close, she could see the smouldering flakes of black ash in its nostrils. The baby let out a howl of terror and Ellen turned just in time. A huge ancient oak towered in front of her. Ellen yelped and swerved dangerously to her left, catching the beast's wing with her leg which drove her into the air at an awkward angle. Ellen struggled to re-gain her balance and didn't notice the Calorion's movement. Seeing his chance, the Calorion swiftly sliced a dagger into her leg.
Excrutiating pain exploded in her left thigh, the flesh roared like fire, flames licked up her calf, dancing over her leg, needing it with a thousand white hot needles. Warm, dark liquid ran in rivers down her leg, pooling in her sock. Gasping, Ellen began to lose focus. She was going too quickly and she couldn't see. She needed to get that baby out of there, but she didn't have enough strength to take them both. It dawned on Ellen that as soon as she realized that it was a calorion, she had known full well she wasn't going to make it.
Strangely enough though, Ellen wasn't sad, just determined to save a life, even if it meant the loss of her own.
All sounds seemed to fade away, all thought and feeling. Ellen sensed the child's eyes on her. Looking down, she saw her small face was so innocent and terrified. All at once it dawned on Ellen the kind of childhood she would experience: nothing real, no real paernts, no love. Her heart started to feel very heavy, a weight in her chest reminding her of the pain of the life that she held in her hands. The pain a constant hum of noise, like a hornets nest in your garden, menacing, out of control, yet still far enough away for it to harm you properly. Yet, Ellen realized that she wouldn't ever have to experience this baby's pain, only the child would truly know the weight of it all; but Ellen knew that she would be the one to put the baby into the pain, force her to experience the hum of noise. The mass in her chest told her she shared the burden,that she, like the child would know the feeling of neglect and guilt, mashed together as strongly as the elements of her soul; so maybe, just possibly for a second, neither one was on their own; and that, and that alone was magical. At that moment, the moon glittered in the baby's eyes, pirouetting in the pool of green. So, that was what it was like to be the moon; numb, a weight so big in your chest, your mind so full of things that are so heartbreakingly sad and yet so joyously brilliant. In that moment, Ellen felt like the moon. Her strength slipped away as easily as her breath into the night, her soul desparate to escape. She closed her eyes and inhaled. The white hot pain in her leg made her eyelids sparkle with tiny stars, threatening to pull her unconscious. A life sparred, a life saved, she thought.
A new sence of powr ignited.
She could do this.
She was going to save her.
One last look at the child and she pushed a tremendous amount of effort at her. Every cell that held magic started to sweat and deliver, power so great, it could split skies. Her face screwed up with the effort her body breaking and straining, limbs feeling stretched and burned. The sound of a mightily ancient tree cracking and splintering echoed through the dark night as the power in her broke and smashed together to get the child away. One moment, the baby was crying, the next she was slipping away into the folds of time and place.
Ellen stopped flying, the last atom of strength falling away from her. She felt drained, her eyelids quivered and twitched, blood streamed down her body from places where she had strained herself too much. Her leg singed as though hot acid had been poured on it. Her mind hummed with exhaustion, and her limbs were dead weights pulling her down, salty tears ran down her cheeks, climbing into cuts and stinging them with sadness. She was half dead, as good as broken.
She turned to the furious beast and Calorion, her lips stretched into a smile.
"Take your best shot then." Her voice was quiet, barley audible, yet it shook with anger. Her throat was hoarse, a sour taste lingereing on her tounge.
The beast and the monster smiled.