The roar of the wind trampled the snow behind us like thousands of horses charging into battle…with us.
The Deadly Spray Forest sprawled out before us. The power from the tornado pulled the tree branches like arms reaching out to snatch us. It was a frightening sight.
LaCroiux cackled heartily, signaling his latest attack. I turned around to witness arms forming at the tornado’s side. They swirled around above his head gathering tremendous speed. Then LaCroiux whipped them toward us.
The first snap landed between Fraydorn and Millessa. The second barely missed Millessa, sending a cascade of snow up across her back. Delza slipped, but Mecca grabbed her at the last second keeping her from falling into the tornado’s vortex. Millessa bolted ahead of Fraydorn and me, kicking up a trail of powder in our faces.
We had almost reached the forest when the tornado vanished.
“It’s gone!” Delza yelled.
Millessa skidded to a stop and turned to watch the sky clear. Fraydorn galloped up beside.
“Where did he go?” Mecca questioned, slightly out of breath.
“Is he gone?” Delza nervously inquired. She knew the answer though. LaCroiux had been attacking her village for months. It was a false hope that he had given up.
“No! LaCroiux will return. He always returns.” I patted Fraydorn as he restlessly moved about. “We must enter the forest.”
“I’m not going in there. We don’t go into the Deadly Spray Forest,” Delza was obviously concerned.
“What is that?” Mecca pointed into the darkness.
I squinted to look through the night. In the distance loomed a wall of snow barreling directly toward us.
“Move!” I shouted pulling on the reins and directing Fraydorn toward the forest.
The noise was terrible as the wall of snow closed in on us quickly.
“It’s gaining on us!” Delza screamed.
It was the last words any of us would utter before the snow cascaded over us, pushing us into the forest. I was pulled free from Fraydorn. I tumbled through the snow unable to break free from its grip. Finally, I skidded to a stop, much of my body buried in snow. My eyes fluttered. It was so difficult to keep them open. My head throbbed. I searched the area for my friends, but dizziness overtook me. I grew ill and vomited upon the dirty snow, which was tainted by leaves, rocks, sticks and dirt. I couldn’t stay awake. I felt my body slump into the snow around me and everything went black.
Grace? Grace can you hear me? Mecca’s voice echoed in my head. Open your eyes.
I could feel the touch of his strong hands upon my shoulders. My body was in great discomfort. It took too much effort just to pull open my eyelids. I took a short painful breath.
“Grace, be careful. You may have broken a few ribs. It will be difficult to breathe normally.” Mecca explained.
Delza sat beside me tending to a wound on her arm. The gash was nearly closed now. Tears streamed down her face, which showed the result of our entry into the forest. Scratches and cuts were along the side of her face and over her eye.
“Where are we, Mecca?” I mustered up the strength to ask. A pain shot down my side as I shifted to sit up right.
“Grace! Take it easy.” Mecca had turned his attention back to helping Delza finish closing the wound on her arm. “We are inside the Deadly Spray Forest. Fortunately, we found a place to hide among the trees. LaCroiux has had Vampire bats out looking for us.”
“Where are Millessa and Fraydorn?”
It remained silent. Mecca wouldn’t look at me.
“They were both unconscious, and too large for me to move on my own. I had to leave them. LaCroiux has them now.” He wiped the remaining blood from Delza’s arm as she winced in pain.
“I’m sorry, Grace. There just wasn’t enough time to save everyone.” The sound in his voice was heartbreaking. He wasn’t accustomed to failure.
“LaCroiux has grown much stronger than the last time we faced him,” I stated.
Mecca turned his attention to me. “We need to check your ribs.” He placed his hands upon my side. A pain shot straight up into my chest knocking the air from my lungs. “It doesn’t feel as though they are broken, Grace.”
“Badly bruised,” I replied. “Not much better. It will be nearly impossible for me to use my sword.”
“Or your bow,” Delza spoke as she leaned her head back against the tree behind her, eyes closed.
“I will have to try. It is far too dangerous in this place for me to walk about unprotected. Even if I just hold my weapon it may keep LaCroiux’s monsters off me long enough to escape.” I said it but wasn’t even confident in those words myself. We were in real danger before our injuries, but now we entered a realm of evil. LaCroiux controlled everything here. We now played on his terms, and by his rules.
“You two have to rest. You’ll need your strength…or what you can recover before we move on.” Mecca began gathering our weaponry and laying it out before us. “This was all that I could recover from the snow.” Two bows, a dozen arrows, three swords and a small dagger.
“It will have to do,” I attempted to sound as confident as I could. “We shouldn’t venture out during night here. We will have to wait until daylight to help guide us.”
“Well, there is one problem.” Mecca began. “I believe that it is day time now. It is slightly warmer, and I have witnessed some rays of light coming into the forest when the trees move with the winds. These branches are unlike anything I’ve ever seen, Grace. They act like a canopy protecting us from the snow and cold harsh winds, yet also block almost all sunlight.”
“That would explain the dirt blanket,” Delza snarled as she ran her hand along the bare forest floor. “Real comfy!”
“It beats sleeping in the snow,” I muttered. My clothes were still icy cold from my time beneath the snow. Thankfully, these trees kept the winds at bay. Hopefully, they could help keep Sorcerer LaCroiux’s henchmen off our scent too.
“Alright you two, get some rest.” Mecca stood up and began walking away.
“What if the Vampire bats find us?” Delza asked the question that weighed heavily on us all…she was just the courageous one to speak it aloud.
“Then we fight with whatever strength we have left.” I replied attempting to hide the fear that struggled to escape me.
I lay on the hard ground trying to rest my aching body. It was difficult to remain still, especially my mind. I kept watching the trees swaying sometimes seeing figures in them. Closing my eyes didn’t help either. Images of LaCroiux hovering over me entered my mind repeatedly. My eyes would snap open again. It was becoming harder to tell dream from reality.
The next time I opened my eyes I felt different. My pain was numbed. Stretching out I realized that I was no longer an elf…I was again an eagle like when I enter Greenville. I took to the sky and maneuvered up through the trees. It was dark and very cold.
“Greenville?’ I said in surprise after finding the Whizzenmog house in the distance. I swooped down and perched in the same tree where I had recently watched Whizzy.
A warm sensation entered my chest as I saw him sleeping in his bed. I watched him through the window for a few moments. It was peaceful…too peaceful.
“I should check on Rachel,” I extended my wings and prepared to leap from the branch when a strange light appeared in Whizzy’s bedroom.
The white light spun with flashes of gold growing more intense with each swirl. It grew larger by the second…a flash lit up the room. It stunned my sensitive eyes. When my vision returned, I was frightened by what I saw. Sorcerer LaCroiux stood beside Whizzy’s bed. I tried to get air born, but my body aches had returned. That was when I realized I was no longer an eagle, but myself again grasping the branch.
LaCroiux turned his gaze upon me. A rumbling laughter exploded through the window, bursting the glass out upon me. The same white light glowed from his mouth and eyes.
“You can’t protect him, Grace. You can’t even protect yourself!” the sorcerer mocked.
I watched helplessly as LaCroiux stood up tall, arms raised. Flames began to dance in his palms, a ferocious expression upon his face like that of a Wolverine preparing to pounce on its prey. He fired a ball of flames into Whizzy’s bed. It exploded, shooting flames out the broken window and against my skin. The heat instead felt like a rush of cold air across my body. I began to tumble from the branch. I was falling to my death when suddenly I awoke.
“WHIZZY!” I screamed.
“Grace!” Mecca yelled snapping me back from the horrible nightmare and into our real-
Mecca helped Delza to her feet.
My heart was still pounding so hard it hurt my head. I struggled to catch my breath amidst the pain in my badly bruised ribs. I rolled to my side, still unaware of just how much danger we were in. Mecca’s strong arms wrapped around me and lifted me up.
I whimpered in pain, but held back the urge to scream. Mecca noticed the tears running down my cheeks. Thankfully, he would believe that it was because of the pain in my body and not in my heart after watching Whizzy being destroyed at the hands of our enemy. I had to tell myself it was a dream. I couldn’t have actually been in Greenville. LaCroiux was just torturing me…leading me to believe he had done it.
I heard the familiar sound of a sword ringing as it was unsheathed. Mecca held his sword pointed directly before him.
“Think you can fire your bow?” He asked me.
“I don’t know how accurately.”
“Well, accuracy is gonna count.”
For the first time I got to witness our enemies. In the trees were dozens of Vampire bats seething and drooling. Cracking and growling came from the branches. A tree bent forward causing a Vampire bat to flee. Another loud crack exploded into our hideout, followed by a massive meaty fist. The monstrously tall tree snapped in half and crashed to the ground as three Trolls entered.
“We are in serious trouble!” Delza yelped.
“Well, at least he didn’t send four Trolls.” Mecca looked at me. “Then we’d be outnumbered,” Mecca sarcastically replied.