Hades dropped from the carriage as he glanced around, something had spooked the horses as they made their way through the forest track. It was late and dark, the only light from the lanterns on the carriage. The air had a biting chill, a reminder of the first signs of the coming winter.
He made his way to the front to check the road ahead of the horses before looking back to the driver “I don’t know my Lord, they were unnerved by something, not that I saw anything in this darkness,”
“We need to be careful, we’ll just take it easy for the moment, try to find a place ahead to set camp, seems safer than trying to make it through tonight, “As Hades turned one of the horses reared causing Hades to yelp in shock before ducking out of the way of the hooves headed toward him, there was a crack as the horse broke loose and took off into the darkness ahead “Or we could just make camp here,” Hades groaned in disbelief.
Jade opened the carriage door to step out, just as the horses sped away in reaction to this unknown terror. Moving to stand at his side looking deeper into the first with those exotic brown almond slanted eyes. “Hm. That was our ride…I sense something in the air…”
“Yea,” Hades added a nervousness now crept into his voice as he glanced around. Kara also now exited the carriage as she looked to Jade and Hades.
“Is everything OK?”
Hades placed a hand on his blade as he nodded slowly in thought “We’ll make camp here, something isn’t right and I’m not willing to take chances”
Jade placed a hand on Hades’ shoulder, her own weapons, not too far, from the beautifully gifted katanas to the other that held a black blade. “Then we will stay camp. But the carriage can’t stay in the middle of the road…” She inhaled deeply, though tipped her chin up to sniff for any scent outside the normal if this forest.
Hades led the remaining horse to the edge of the road before the driver began tending them. Hades sighed softly as he continued to check the road, everything in him telling him there was in that moment something very wrong.
“You should take the horse, get to the mansion and bring help back, we can handle things here,” Hades stated to the driver. The driver would argue had he not felt just as unnerved as Hades in that moment, he nodded in agreement and swung up onto the horse before heading out.
Hades began pulling down gear from the carriage before beginning to set camp.
Jade assisted Hades in bringing down the items to make camp, arranging a tent separate for Kara in helping her set it up very close to her own. It seemed everyone was on edge to the strange circumstances. When finished Jade began a fire to boil some tea to relax them, but Hades seemed only faintly aware that such only brightened his senses.
Kara sat close to the fire she had remained largely quiet since her big reveal a day ago, she was for the moment content to follow the lead of Hades and Jade. As she watched Jade prepare the tea.
Hades settled too though it was obvious his senses were in a heightened state as he continued to try to place what was making him so nervous, “We need to stay alerted I have a bad feeling we’re being watched, I just wish I could figure out by what, there isn’t much in the Everlands stupid enough to hunt this much power,”
“”I don’t plan on being breakfast for anything, but before you get the inkling to accuse me of arranging this, I did not,” Kara stated, there was no accusation a simple statement of fact.
Jade glanced to Hades, everything she did with the tea was a type of ceremonious, ritualistic in the beauty of grace. She filled the cups, offering one to Hades first then to Kara before signing her own with a sip. She offered Kara a smile and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Farthest thing for my mind was accusations.”
“Not on mind either,” Hades added as he took the cup from Jade with a soft smile “This is, hard to pin down, and I’m not easily rattled but whatever has us in its sights it’s powerful and is taking its time,”
“It’s toying with us. Testing us.” Jade commented idly, pressing her lips against the rim of the cup in a slow sip. “Have either of you felt this before? I’m not picking up a scent…”
“No,” Hades stated which was the other thing that was disturbing him, he was aware of almost everything within the Everlands but this was new, darker and far more dangerous than anything he was aware of, “This is far more dangerous than anything I can remember encountering,”
“All we can do is wait until this…force decides to make itself known.” Jade moved to sit closer to Hades, while she could handle her own, the fact that her lover was so disturbed in turn caused her to reflect as such. “We should take turns. You know, looking out.”
Hades looked to Kara for a moment before choosing his next words with care, “You’re Haunteds daughter which means you have quite the arsenal of magic to tap into. I’ve seen Haunted pull stuff we could scarcely think up to do, so if you’re so inclined the perhaps you have something that could help settle my nerves before I’m of no use to anyone,”
“Yea, my handle on magic isn’t so great, try as I might a fizzle or a spark is the best I can do, I guess being half elf isn’t conducive to Elcarus magic, sorry,” Kara sighed in soft reply.
“Worth a try,” Hades mused in reply as his arm slid around Jades waist drawing her close, the air was eerily cold now with a dark fog beginning to roll in, “And judging by that fog coming toward us, I’m guessing we’re going to find out who our mystery stalker is, sooner rather than later,”
Jade settled against Hades while gathering his cup and her own to place down. Her eyes watching the fog as it rolled in like a blanket across the ground. “So it seems…”
It was sudden but the line of purple cut through the fog as Hades barely had time to react it halted in mid-flight erupting against an invisible shield thrown up by Kara, who looked just as surprised as Hades at the occurrence.
A second streak of purple cut through the air again deflected into the shield with a crash. As Kara finally dropped her hands and the field with it. Through the fog several figures could be seen, pale skin, and hair that was as white as pure snow, they were all armed as they approached, Hades stood but for the moment refrained from drawing his weapon.
“What in the ever living hell?!” Kara breathed
Jade stood now at the ready, her weapons however remained in position at her back and hip. Glancing surprised to Kara with a smirk, then forward to the sight of the pale figures. “Seems the realm had surprises yet, for all of us.”
“Like I said, a lot of power to tap into, no one was better with magic than Haunted,” He eyed the incoming figures as most stopped at the edge of the fog a single female continued forward now stood before them she looked at each in turn, her proximity caused a shudder to run through Hades.
“You do not flee from usss,” There was a hiss to her worse, her voice low and coarse as she spoke, each word seemingly a dagger through Hades’ head.
“I’m thinking about it,” Hades replied shortly
“Ah humour, sssuch thingsss are of no ussse to uss,” The woman replied “We are afraid, and we are hungry, ssso we sssought out power, and here there isss a lot of power, perhapsss you can aid usss,”
“What are they?” Jade whispered to Hades, but never stood down with her pose. “Who are you? This hunger you speak of…is what exactly to sate?”
“Much like the vampiresss, we feed, but we take life itssself,” The woman hissed dangerously now, “We are wraith, and we are hungry,”
Hades felt the cold run down his spine at her words as he drew Jade closer in instinct “Didn’t your race get eradicated a few generations ago, you were left to myth and speculation, so why now? And why ask, clearly you have the numbers and we wouldn’t be much of a match,”
“We do, we could, but that is not our way, we can only feed on the willing, we cannot take what isss not given to usss,” The female replied as she stepped toward Jade, Hades instinctively stepped back, “You are Elcarusss, yet you fear usss, why?”
“OK, you know my family, that’s disturbing, but your race isn’t exactly of a great reputation, those that were hunted weren’t know for asking before ripping someones life force from them, quite the opposite if memory serves me, it was a punishment for treason some time before Ascondia,” Hades replied calmly now seemingly finding some balance within himself.
“They did, and we had to change or risssk extinction, but we sssurvived and we changed our ways, but your blood calls to usss, it is powerful and would keep usss alive for many years,” The woman hissed softly as she stared at Hades then to Kara now turning toward her.
When the speaking wraith looked to Kara, Jade stepped closer to her in a defensive way. “We want to live. Leave us in peace and you will have much the same.”
“I don’t have plans to die anytime soon, in fact I’ve worked very hard to avoid ending up dead, nor do I plan to let my future wife or niece end up dead, but I don’t wish to start another war either, I’m sure somewhere there is a bargain to be had and all I require from you is time to put it into place,” Hades stated softly
“Don’t they say when Hades is the voice of reason something is very wrong?” Kara quipped with a smile
“Or I could just let them eat you?” Hades responded with a grin before turning back to the female wraith.
“You would aid usss, even after we threatened your livesss? Why?”
“Because we too have had to change, though next time you want to talk, hurling magic at us may not be the right idea,” Hades shrugged softly “The Everlands is changing for the better, so you can be part of that or it is likely that you will again be hunted down, but if we can let dragons into the realm then should we not allow Wraith as well?”
“We will consssider your wordsss, and we will return with our anssswer,” The female replied before turning on heel and disappearing into the fog, the fog then moving away from then as did the feelings of unease, Hades felt the panic dissipate and sat rubbing the back of his neck.
“That was awkward,” He mused softly
“And we’re not dead,” Kara shrugged “So thanks for that,”
“They will remain close, we shouldn’t lower our guard any more than we need to, it could be exactly what they want, they aren’t exactly known for honouring their deals, it’s the entire reason the last Empress tried to have them all killed, and damnit Everlandian history is bloody complex!” Hades shook his head softly “We should just remain prepared, keep watch, and head for Dentarius as soon as the sun is up,”
Jade remained silent after all was said and done, watching the darkness beyond. Hades saw the familiar yellow of the Kitsune surface in her eyes. “We make a promise…we have to back it up. As they said, they are hungry. What was it that was said, the last ruler used them. Why not do the same? As punishment to those still locked away by the war? Crimes punishable by death…”
“As much as I agree with that idea, it’s not a decision I can make, we can but put it to Ascondia, though it’s likely better coming from my brother. On the other hand I suspect if we don’t do something to help their situation we may end with another war on our hands, something I’m far from keen to repeat before our wedding,” Hades sighed in reply as he threw a log to the fire helping to stoke the flames.
She remained with her yellow eyes upon the darkness of the forest, but inhaled deeply. “I agree, we need to discuss this with Kane. Something needs to be figured out, the realm doesn’t need another war. It needs to heal.” Finally Jade turned with a yawn, which exposed her canines moving to settle near the fire
“You should go rest, we’ve been through a lot the last few days,” Hades laid a hand on her squeezing softly, “You too Kara,”
Kara yawned and nodded as she stood and made her way to her tent, a look back before climbing within. Hades watched Jade with a soft smile his eyes looking her over in thought before he nodded “Go on, I’ll wake you in a little while to take over,”
Jade hesitated looking in the direction of the forest, then to Hades with a slow reluctant nod. But she kissed him gently, whispering. “Just don’t do anything stupid. I’d like our child to know the father.” Without waiting for a response, she left him to his own thoughts, as she ducked inside the tent.
“I wouldn’t dare,” He replied as she disappeared into the tent, before settling to watch the grounds around them, his eyes adjusted now to the darker lands, the fire and lanterns of the carriage lit the area enough to remain awake and wait on whatever surprise was de for them next.