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Mynor was running at top speed. Stupid instincts, he should really
know better than to be behaving like a silly puppy. Without slowing
down he changed direction and dashed towards where Laiva had to be.
Laiva looked into the cold eyes of the beast; she’d never seen such an
animal before. It looked like a gigantic cat with yellow and black
striped fur and two enormous, sabre-like teeth. She couldn’t remember
ever having heard of a cat as high as one and a half metres, but then
again that wasn’t exactly a good thing. The worst about it, however,
was its stare; suddenly she knew what it felt like to be a mouse. A
mouse facing death. However, she had something no mouse had. With a
quick movement of her hand she flung a throwing star at the creature.
Laiva had taken some time to prepare a few of them; the poison should
be strong enough even for this beast. The piece of metal hit it right
between the eyes – and went through it, as if there was nothing but
air; but Laiva hadn’t any time to wonder it as the creature started
moving towards her. Slowly, carefully it moved, and yet as if it was
going to leap any second now. Without thinking she stepped backwards,
or at least she wanted to; her feet got caught in the undergrowth and
she fell. Sitting on the ground she’d never stand a chance, but then
again standing on her feet wouldn’t have helped her either. She
unsheathed her sword and clutched it tight; if she was going to be
eaten she’d at least make a lasting impression. Laiva closed her eyes,
tightened her grip on the sword and waited for the claws to dig into
her flesh. Nothing happened. She opened her eyes a bit and peered; the
beast was still standing in front of her. Then it leaped. Her heart
missed a beat. She was still alive, she didn’t even seem to be hurt at
all. It had passed right through her, like a ghost, but then again
not. She turned her head and looked over her shoulder, but it was
gone. What was going on here?
‘Odd, isn’t it? Went right through you.’
Laiva turned back and faced an ancient looking, white haired
woman in long, white robes, leaning against a tree next to her. Where
had she come from? The woman stopped playing with the small silver
ring she wore and gave Laiva a toothless smile.
‘Never let fear govern your mind. That’s what he wants. You
did the right thing when you stopped running, but he was about to get
you anyway. You heart made quite a jump, didn’t it? Ah, youth has its
advantages, for sure.’
‘Who…’ was the only thing Laiva managed to stammer.
‘Timor is a daemon, you know. An evil spirit you would call
him. And he is old, very old. You should really look into dealing with
those who sent him after you…’
The woman tossed her something and turned to go. Laiva looked
down at the object in her hands; it was a small crystal vial with a
strange light in it, shining in all the colours of the rainbow. When
she looked up again, the woman had vanished.
Even days later Laiva could hardly think of anything else except for
the strange old woman; she just knew there was more to them meeting
than coincidence, much more than one might guess; despite the already
mysterious circumstances. Slowly the randomness started to add up.
Once again she pulled the little vial out of her pocket and watched
the light in it. It couldn’t really be what she thought it was, could
it? But was that really beyond the abilities of someone who appeared
out of and vanished into thin air, just like that? She had searched
for tracks, checked every stone twice, but all she could find were her
own footsteps and, surprisingly enough, plenty of spoors. None that
could possibly belong to a huge cat of course, daemons don’t leave
footsteps, but almost any other kind. As suddenly as they had left,
they had returned. It was as if the forest had been awakened from a
long and deep sleep and had presented her with the whole of its
wildlife. Mynor, however, didn’t seem to have noticed anything. On
returning to the campsite he lifted his head a bit, and without
further ado returned to sleeping. The vial was the only proof that it
had really happened; otherwise Laiva might even have ended up
believing that she had been dreaming, but there it was, in her own
hands, in that very moment. Still, she had overlooked some important
detail; she could feel it and yet was clueless.
From one day to the next winter took over reign, its frosty hand once
again draining away the life summer had given to nature. To Laiva the
first snows had always been something special, but she couldn’t really
appreciate it this year, without a warm fireplace to sit in front of.
Temperatures were dropping like sleet in spring and soon there was
nothing left but ice and snow. This time the animals wouldn’t return
until the first rays of the spring sun melted the snow away or, in
case of those not having the advantage of hibernation, until hunger
forced them to brave the cold. So Laiva was quite glad when, a few
days later, the forest finally gave way to more open territory. At
last they had made it through the hill lands and, a few hours later, a
column of smoke appeared, serving them as a guide to a small village,
sitting in the middle of a small depression. On this glittering and
sparkling blanket of pure white it was impossible to think of anything
more idyllic, even without being the first settlement she had seen in
weeks. Having the unique colour of fresh snow on a sunny day, it was
more stereotypical than any stereotype you could possibly think of.
Laiva, however, was more looking forward to a nice warm fireplace, a
proper bed to sleep in and, best of all, a hot bath. There’s nothing
like sitting in a bath tub filled with steaming hot water when it’s
cold outside. And then of course she had to do something about her
clothes; with temperatures below freezing point her coat, made from
furs she had collected, could barely keep her warm at night. For the
first time Laiva had wished she had spent more time on her sewing
lessons, but there had always been other things to do; more
interesting ones. Well, in a few minutes she would be sitting in front
of a fireplace, enjoying the warmth and eating a big bowl of steaming
soup. That would probably cost the rest of her money, but it was worth
every single coin. And then she would take a long hot bath; half an
hour at least.